Canfei Nesharim is committed to providing inspiring educational resources to engage synagogues and their members in learning and acting together to protect our environment. Since January 2008, Canfei Nesharim has been working directly with Jewish communities who are committed to educating and inspiring their communities to become aware and active in protecting the environment.
In 2008-09, our synagogues pilot included 7 Orthodox communities who worked together over 18 months to help develop our Synagogue Program Series and implement Torah-based environmental education in their communities. In 2009-10, the program expanded to engage 15 Jewish communities from every denomination, focused largely in the Bay Area, Baltimore/Washington area, New Jersey/New York and Boston.
Canfei Nesharim’s Synagogue Program Series now includes Torah teachings and program resources for every time of the Jewish year, including the Three Weeks (precaution), Sukkot/Shemini Atzeret (water), Chanukah (energy), Tu b’Shevat (appreciation for nature), Purim/Pesach (reducing waste), the Omer and Shavuot (relationship to the land). The launch of this program was featured on the front page of the Washington Jewish Week in July 2008. We have learned a tremendous amount through this pilot, about which types of programs and resources are most effective, and what the communities need to be successful.
Results from 2009-2010
In 2009-10, with the generous support of Gaia Fund, Canfei Nesharim’s Synagogues Pilot Phase II included fifteen synagogues from all denominations, including a number of Orthodox synagogues who had participated in the previous years. Throughout the year, lay leaders, educators and rabbis from participating communities met together on regular conference calls to discuss program ideas, share implementation results, and offer feedback to Canfei Nesharim about the most effective program resources. The program also included a three-hour leadership training for Bay Area leaders, and two 90-minute webinars for committee members from all participating synagogues.
Evaluation results indicated that as part of the Synagogues Pilot, at least:
- 53 programs were organized, attended by 1,285 individuals.
- At least 12 synagogues distributed Torah-environment materials (such as mailings or handouts) to their membership during the course of the year, reaching 2,450 individuals.
Respondents indicated the most valuable parts of the program for them:
- Receiving divrei Torah, source sheets, and study content for learning in my community.
- Receiving practical activity ideas for programs to engage my community
- Receiving materials that I can share with my community in emails, newsletters, etc.
- Receiving eco-reminders and fact sheets to distribute to my community
- By developing my leadership skills through the leadership development opportunities
As initial indicators of change, participants reported the following changes in themselves and in their committees:
- Increased awareness of environmental issues
- Taking on new personal changes to protect the environment
- Stronger motivation to take environmental actions
- Increased confidence in my abilities or convictions
Of those who participated in the leadership trainings, participants reported that they:
- Experienced being part of a broader movement that is making a difference in our world (8)
- Realized that I face common challenges with other leaders which can be addressed through training and sharing of ideas (8)
- Gained leadership insights which will support me in bringing Jewish-environmental change to my community (6)
- Learned practical strategies which I will use in bringing Jewish-environmental change to my community (5)
- Feel more empowered to engage my community in Jewish environmental learning and action (5)